The Sweet Christian Bride

Featured Resource: Real Marriage

Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship,

and Life Together

By Mark and Grace Driscoll

Summary: Real Marriage splits its focus roughly into thirds: friendship, directions to husband and wife, and sex.  Before beginning any of those three topics, Mark and Grace open candidly with their own story.  From the get-go, the reader cares about what they have to say because Mark and Grace have been through it all.  And they have diligently studied marriage and pursued healing in their own marriage.  Their heart for marriage is clear, so even though parts of the book have a direct tone, the reader is assured that they are speaking not from judgment but from their own conviction of God’s Word.  They take care to explain this in their preface and introduction.

A husband and a wife are made for friendship at the core of their relationship.  The Driscolls spell out a new kind of friendship (not the Facebook or the ministry kinds) with the simple acronym F.R.I.E.N.D.S.  Fruitful, Reciprocal, Intimate, Enjoyable, Needed, Devoted, and Sanctifying.  In sum, “by always working on our friendship, the rest of marriage seems to sort itself out in time” (41).

Speaking to the husband and to the wife, the Driscolls hammer out some difficult yet Biblical truths for God’s design for husband and wife.  The husband needs to step up and be a man.  The wife needs to release her desire for control and cultivate honor and respect in her words and actions.

In regards to sex, the Driscolls argue that the best sex is between servant lovers and within the lavish confines of the Biblical design for sex.  They take the time to examine what Scripture says about certain aspects of sex, and they also deeply engage in the sexual culture and subsequent baggage that has flooded even Christian marriages.

Value: As the Driscolls say themselves, marriage books don’t talk about how to be friends with your spouse, and friendship books don’t use examples from marriage.  Yet, friendship is vital to a fruitful marriage.  Working on the other aspects of a marriage relationship is certainly necessary, but without the solid foundation of a Christ-centered friendship, air pockets can build within the infrastructure of a marriage.  It doesn’t take much to hit an air pocket and watch a marriage crumble.  As a married reader, I deeply appreciated this angle of marriage.  There are many people who love their spouses but who don’t like them very much.  This is dangerous.

I also appreciate a strong look at what friendship is.  The Driscolls say, “true friendship involves healthy conflict and hard discussions as God reveals sin and repentance, and reconciliation takes place”(25).  The part that really struck me was that “we are to be friendly toward all people, but only friends with a few.  We make a mistake when we call anyone we are friendly to a ‘friend'”(26).  Many of us, myself included, need to stop trying to befriend the whole world at the expense of befriending our spouses.  We same people also need to hear permission to let go of the demands of relationships that have grown intimate because of service in ministry.  Just because we have met someone’s needs does not mean that we are friends in the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. sense.  Jesus, Himself, demonstrated this for us, but our culture can dilute or pervert that model of friendship.

Because the Driscolls bear their hearts at the beginning, they are able to speak strong words to men and women in the hot-button areas of headship and submission.  They speak Biblically on these issues and with great respect to the other sex.  Reading this section gives a necessary challenge to gender issues that are rooted in pride or fear.

And, of course, who doesn’t want to hear answers to questions about sex.  The Driscolls fearlessly and reverently tackle issues of modern sexuality by using timeless principles of Scripture.  They also edify their readers on how brokenness in sexuality has come to the point it has come to.  They talk about abuse, pornography, addictions, idolatry, lust, and shame.  They speak to real sexual issues in marriages today.  They are giving weight to each individual’s responsibility to sexual integrity, a responsibility that we don’t engage with much today.

One of my favorite points they make in their section on sex is, “God intends for a devoted married couple to be ‘addicted’ to each other”(141).  As such, God give us spouses to serve as our standards of beauty, meaning “if your spouse is tall, you are into tall.  If your spouse is skinny, you are into skinny.  If your spouse is twenty, you are into twenty.  When your spouse is sixty, you are no longer into twenty, but rather into sixty.  And if your spouse used to be skinny, you were into skinny, but now you are into formerly skinny”(109-110).  Imagine the positive outflow of this in marriages!

Ultimately, the Driscolls plead with their readers to truly grasp that “how [they] behave today sets in motion a future for sexual freedom or slavery, life or death—a future not only for [their lives] but also for the generations that will follow in [their] wake”(155).

Highlights: The F.R.I.E.N.D.S. acronym was really helpful in creating a user’s manual for friendship in marriage.  Another highlight is the wealth of personal stories in the book, from the Driscolls and from others, that shed authentic light on the darkness that sets us up for a shadowed version of what marriage should be.  And the hook of the book are the questions answered about “Can we do __ in sex within marriage?”

Rating: 5 stars.  This book tackles marriage from a totally fresh angle.  I had never read about friendship in marriage before.  And only in a few marriage books have I received and accepted a spiritual spanking regarding failing to live up to my role as a wife.  My willingness to receive their strong instruction was totally a matter of their Biblical rooting and their grace-filled, authentic platform of having needed and accepted these very instructions for themselves.  This book answers tricky questions about sex that no one else wants to touch, and it takes the time to de-glamorize our sexual culture so we can understand what we are dealing with.  Read this book!